Tele communicators at the JASCO 9-1-1 Center handle all 9-1-1 calls from Jasper County, except from those from Joplin.

VOTE TUESDAY

 9-1-1 Board asks for slight tax increase to end confusion of four different radio systems in the county

Carl Francis: ‘This is the way to finally bring an end to the radio system confusion we have in Jasper County right now’

Two of the tele communicators on duty Tuesday were Angela Russell and Dalton Reed.

The Jasper County Emergency Services 9-1-1 Board of Directors is asking voters on Tuesday, Aug. 3, to approve a tax increase, from its current 1/10th of a cent to 1/4 of a cent, to fund three areas of improvement:

The additional revenue would:

Allow all public safety agencies in the county to talk to each other by adopting one radio system that is also compatible with the statewide system.

  • INFRASTRUCTURE to maintain the JASCO 9-1-1 building and build out equipment, such as towers, to improve radio and data communication..
  • ONE RADIO SYSTEM so all agencies in the county can talk to each other.
  • REPLACE THE 9-1-1 PHONE SYSTEM to ensure rapid dispatching of all emergency and non-emergency calls to all agencies and prepare for better connectivity with other 9-1-1 centers.

Carl Francis, city administrator and former police chief of Webb City, is on the JASCO board and serves as treasurer.

He admits he wouldn’t be in favor of the tax increase without the commitment to use the additional revenue to buy new radios for all agencies in the county.

“This is the way to finally bring an end to the radio system confusion we have in Jasper County right now,” says Francis.

“Now that they’ve (board members) committed to buying all the new radios for the departments,” he says he supports the tax increase. “It’s very expensive, but it’s money well-spent.”

Webb City Police Chief Don Melton says he supports the tax increase because he says it will be a “good deal for all the county to be on one radio system.” 

There are currently four different radio systems in Jasper County.

It’s a problem Melton says when departments are involved in the same incident. He recalls when there were so many departments responding to the 2011 Joplin tornado that “we weren’t able to talk to each other.”

Staying after the Wednesday board meeting were members Dan Stanley and Jeff Fries, president, along with April Ford, executive director of the center.

More recently, April Ford, executive director of the JASCO 9-1-1 Center, says there was a big fire at Carl Junction after the Fourth of July when responders’ lives were in danger because the agencies were using two different radio systems. The only way they could communicate was to have a JASCO dispatcher relay messages back and forth.

“It’s a responder and officer safety issue,” Ford says. “We want to ensure it’s not a problem again. We would be more efficient and effective if we were together” on the same radio system.

She notes that especially since the Sept. 11 attacks the inability of first responders from different agencies to talk to each other on their radios has been a problem needing to be fixed. 

The new radio system addresses that issue because it would be compatible with the Missouri Statewide Wireless Interoperable Network. That’s the system used by the state, commonly referred to as MOSWIN. Ford noted that the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department has already switched to that system, which allows deputies to talk to highway patrolmen. But they won’t be able to talk directly to other departments in the county unless they convert to the same system.

Francis says that with the MOSWIN system, “an officer in Webb City could push a button and talk to an officer in St. Louis. It’s that good.”

Departments converting one-by-one isn’t a practical approach because Ford says most can’t afford to buy new radios.

Revenue from the tax increase would be used to buy the new radios for those departments.

It would also pay to improve the coverage of the county-wide radio system by erecting new towers and other equipment where necessary.

The JASCO 9-1-1 Center receives and dispatches all 9-1-1 calls from Webb City to either the police or fire departments or METS ambulance service.

Webb City police dispatchers take over from that point to handle radio traffic between the police station and officers. 

JASCO continues direct contact with fire and ambulance personnel.

JASCO handles dispatching and communication for all ambulances. The Carthage Police Department has switched to have JASCO handle its communication traffic.

The Joplin Police Department continues to operate its own 9-1-1 call center and communicates on a radio system that isn’t compatible with any of the other radio systems in the county. New revenue from the tax increase would also pay for Joplin to convert to the MOSWIN system.

At the call center, where Ford has been the executive for 11 years, she says converting to a next generation 9-1-1 phone system will allow better connectivity with callers, better accuracy in locating callers, greater reliability and coordination with other 9-1-1 centers.

“Currently, we cannot transfer 9-1-1 calls to all 9-1-1 centers,” says Ford. Doing so would allow backup with neighboring jurisdictions so that calls and radio traffic can be covered in the event of an unforseen emergency or evacuation.

Also, the number of dedicated call takers at the center would be increased.

The Jasper County Emergency Services 9-1-1 Center, located off I-49 near the intersection with I-44.

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